Welfare survey on Ukraine conflict reveals priorities for seafarers

Survey from Seafarers International Relief Fund and Ukraine Charity Co-ordination Group highlights need for action to help Ukrainian seafarers travel internationally. Ongoing need for hardship grants, accommodation support, communications support and mental health services also identified as priorities.

A major survey into the welfare priorities of seafarers affected by the Ukraine crisis has shone a spotlight on the measures being taken to support seafarers and their families, as well as the most pressing priorities in the coming months.

The survey was undertaken by the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF) and the Ukraine Charity Co-ordination Group, with the goal of reviewing the effectiveness of the response so far, identifying priorities and planning for the future.

The survey results highlight the full extent of global efforts to help seafarers and their families affected by the war. 100 organisations from across the maritime and welfare sectors participated in the survey to detail the steps they are taking, including charities, trade associations, welfare providers, unions, and shipping companies.

More than 50% of NGOs responding to the survey reported assisting with small gifts, SIM cards/WiFi, supportive conversations, medical help, religious services, and transportation. 29% of NGO respondents have helped seafarers and their families impacted by the war who wanted to relocate (an area of support also met by 47% of industry and union respondents). Finally, 25% of NGO respondents also referenced legal help in respect of immigration, financial assistance, and accommodation for seafarers and/or their families.

The following challenges were identified as the most significant in the coming months:

  • Limits on travel to/from Ukraine for seafarers (74% of respondents)
  • Mental health and wellbeing (70%)
  • Extended contracts, discouragement fatigue (49%)
  • Employment / new contracts (38%)
  • Money remittances or other banking problems (34%)
  • Cost of living for refugee families (32%)
  • Data or wi-fi to contact family (26%)

An overwhelming number of respondents highlighted the limits on travel to/from Ukraine and issues affecting employment contracts (new and extended) as the most significant challenges that seafarers would face in the coming months.

Respondents were also asked to identify the projects that they would prioritise if resources were available. Among the common responses were: individual financial assistance/hardship grants; funding of accommodation for seafarers or their families who are refugees outside of Ukraine, mental health support, funding of SIM cards/WiFi for seafarers impacted by the war; legal support; and support for efforts to lobby the Ukrainian government to allow seafarers to leave the country for new contracts as a reserved occupation of strategic national importance.

Initial Recommendations

Based on its initial review of the findings of the survey and feedback from respondents, SIRF has identified several immediate recommendations for all organisations that are involved in supporting seafarers affected by the Ukraine crisis, including Ukrainian nationals.

  • Continue to provide funding for hardship grants and/or accommodation support for seafarers and their families affected by the war.
  • Continue to support communications through the provision of data-enabled SIM cards and WiFi in ports around the world.
  • Initiate a feasibility study on the development of a mental health support service for seafarers and their families affected by the war.
  • Support efforts to allow Ukrainian seafarers to travel internationally for work.

To understand how we can best continue to support those impacted by the Ukraine crisis, we wanted to hear from those who have been working so hard to help seafarers and their families. We received a wealth of feedback that brings to life how the maritime community has mobilised across the globe in support of seafarers, as well as highlighting what they see as the most urgent priorities. These priorities span the most vital needs of seafarers, such as hardship grants and accommodation, mental health support, contractual issues, and the constraints faced by Ukrainian seafarers on international travel.

SIRF and the Ukraine Charity Co-ordination Group will be studying these results carefully as we develop our next steps. We also encourage other organisations to look closely at our four initial recommendations and consider what they can do to help meet these needs.

Deborah Layde
Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity speaking on behalf of SIRF

About the Survey

The survey was commissioned and managed by the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF) and the Ukraine Charity Co-ordination Group. Organisations from across the maritime and welfare sectors were invited to share their experiences on the support given to those affected by the Ukraine crisis and the ongoing needs of seafarers.

The survey was conducted over four weeks and attracted 100 responses from a wide range of organisations, including shipping companies, charities, welfare organisations, and unions. The response was also truly global. The respondents including those with operations in Ukraine, and from Yokohama to Seattle, Baltimore to Tilbury, and Cape Town to Manila. The largest group of respondents was the charity sector (59%), of whom 31 operate in local ports, 10 are regional or national, and 18 are globally.

Next Steps

The results of the survey are now being closely studied by the SIRF Stakeholder Group, as well as by other seafarers’ welfare funders and partners, in order to guide the next steps taken by these organisations as they continue to support seafarers during this crisis.

The Seafarers International Relief Fund and the Ukraine Charity Co-ordination Group are also making the full results of their survey publicly available, in the hope that this data will prove helpful in inspiring and guiding further action in support of seafarers affected by the crisis in Ukraine. The full results dashboard is available publicly at this link.

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